The Rivers of Light nighttime show at Animal Kingdom opened February 2017 after a very, very, very long teaser period. We were super lucky to see it by chance on opening weekend at Animal Kingdom and just wanted to share everything you’ll need to know to completely enjoy this amazing show. While you may not think this is an Animal Kingdom Must-Do, we can tell you it’s absolutely worth it. Here’s all our tips and why you should take the time to see it.
Rivers of Light Show At Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom has finally come into it’s own as a full day theme park at Walt Disney World. While always a worthwhile park due to the amazing wildlife and immersive African and Asian atmosphere, Animal Kingdom has finally added an evening show that is worth your time. With the new amazing nighttime experience at Pandora, Rivers of Light may feel like it’s something you can skip. We, however, totally believe you need to experience this amazing show at least once. The music, the scenes, the lights. It’s breathtaking.
What is Rivers of Light?
Rivers of Light is a digital projection show that takes place in the Discovery River and Bay area, visible from the bridge that takes you from The Oasis to Africa.
The show projects images of animals in colors across sprays of water that are projected from the floating boats and flowers that cover the small lake later in the evening. If you’ve seen Illuminations at Epcot, its similar technology. The thing that really sets this show apart is the absolutely amazing music that accompanies the whole show.
Between the colors, the images, the boats, the fire, the flowers and music, Rivers of Light completely envelopes your senses and makes you feel completely in the moment. Since Animal Kingdom is all about connection to the earth, you can really feel that Disney completely hit the mark with this show. You feel completely connected. Completely immersed.
The Rivers of Light show currently has starting times, depending on the day at 8:30 and at 9:45pm. As always check the times guide when you enter the park the day you visit.
Where is Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom?
Since the show takes place in the Discovery River and lake area, you will be able to enter the stadium seating right outside Dino-Land or on the other side of the water, right near Expedition Everest. We totally recommend grabbing a little snack or drink at one of the food carts around this area before settling in to your seat.
Is Rivers of Light Worth Seeing?
At 15 minutes, this show is completely worth seeing. We would definitely recommend it as the perfect end to your Animal Kingdom Day. Whether you’re toting toddlers or teens or grandparents, the show really is quite beautiful and probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Be on the lookout for the boats carrying the singers and drummers that weave through the projection, it’s very cool to see how well the entire show is themed to Animal Kingdom with extremely authentic Asian and African elements.
The setup of the show itself is similar to Illuminations at Epcot as it is essentially a story being told through music and visual aesthetics. Rivers of Light, however, is much, much cooler. With the use of lights, lots of water, lots of color, projections onto a water “screen”, boats, and fire, this show is so much more visually stimulating than I probably could have imagined.
Do We Need a Fast Pass for Rivers of Light?
No. When shows and rides first open at Disney we always, always recommend getting a fast pass, but in this case, Rivers of Light has been open since February 2017, and believe it or not, the crowds have simmered. If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom recently you may have not yet seen Pandora: World of Avatar either. But our recommendation is to use your Animal Kingdom fast passes on Flight of the Banshee, Na’vi River and any other ride of your choice. This show has quite a bit of seating and you can always go a little early to snag a great seat.
Know that there isn’t a bad place to see this show. At least this is what the cast members will tell you, and we totally agree. If you end up having to watch it in a not-so-ideal location and missing out on some of the elements of the show, you will still see and hear all the important aspects of the show. As always cast members are all extremely helpful if you need directions to find somewhere to sit or the handicap locations.
Despite the original setbacks with the release of this show, which took almost a year longer to debut than anticipated, we felt so incredibly lucky to have been able to see Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom even with the technical difficulties.
Best Place to Sit for Rivers of Light?
Take comfort in knowing that this show has so much going on visually that there’s no such thing as a bad place to watch it. At least that’s what the cast members will tell you, and I agree. For now, having to watch it in a not-so-ideal location and missing out on some of the elements of the show is better than not being able to see it at all. And this is a show you will not want to miss!
Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom was the perfect end to the day. We hope you love it as much as we did! Totally worth it. We hope you find it as powerful and meaningful as we did!
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .